It's the last day of 2014 and I know many expect us to be saying good riddance and hoping next year is a better year. We're not, 2014 was a GREAT year. Yes we had some hiccups but those hiccups gave us a fantastic opportunity to rebuild our home, even better. They restored our faith in the goodness of people, friends and strangers and showed us that together Paul and Tracey are a great team.
In the spirit of team-work December has been a month of weight gain for me as the experimental cakes I've been making to feed Paul's sweet tooth have been shared equally. It took many attempts but the recipes for Peanut butter cupcakes, Cottage cheese and cinnamon cakes, Choc and ginger cupcakes are now perfected although the Chocolate and Banana Juice cakes need more work as the banana flavour wasn't strong enough. Oh I forgot the coffee and walnut cupcakes which by now have become my fallback 'need cake' bake. I made a double batch on one occasion so I could thank Baba Bonner (lives across the green from us) for the terlitsi she made us. The gratitude with which she accepted the cakes, with some goose feathers she'd requested, was humbling after all the things she has done for us this past year.
Terlitsi (yes I always wear odd socks)
Paul and I went out for a day of builders merchants and supermarkets and it was only a few hours after our return that I realised I hadn't felt a sense of pessimistic dread on the approach home. previous trips out have resulted in a stomach sinking and general tensing up in the last few miles expecting to see our home burnt to the ground. Illogical I know but it happened and I'm pleased to be over that stage.
Following a flippant comment I made (do I make any other type) about a friends heart shaped Yorkshire Puddings a trip to Ruse and shops was arranged so she could increase her kitchen supplies. As our cats seem to enjoy eating silicon cake moulds I thought it a good opportunity to obtain some replacements, The tray, bread tins, cork sheets, board game and a few other pieces all magically jumped into my hands as I was walking around the store and refused to be returned to the shelves. During the trip on of our friends mentioned that a friend of hers needed a house sitter over the holiday period, the money originally offered seemed low for such a last minute request for a time most people want to be with their families. The possibility of earning some money for building materials did hold some interest, so I mentioned it to Paul who had no objections to us being apart over the festive period. Negotiations over financial reimbursement started being conducted via email, the outcome was not as much as I think it should have been but it meant we could obtain 120 square metres of good quality insulation materials without dipping further into savings.
We had an enquiry from a Taiwanese guy via Helpx who needed a host on
fairly short notice. My initial response was 'sorry, not this time of
year' but after I mentioned it to Paul my decision was over-ruled and
we contacted the guy to say he could come for a few days to give him a
base whilst sorting out a longer term host. It kind of went wrong from the start with Paul not taking a phone with him
when he went to collect and then the potential helper had decided to
get the train not the bus (stations miles apart) but it wasn't a
disaster and we ending up hosting someone who found jobs to keep himself
busy for a couple of weeks. I do think if we hadn't specifically
requested him to move on he would still be here but my mindset wasn't
geared to having others around. Winter is Paul and Tracey time -
little work gets done but we play with ideas, chop wood, potter with
numerous small jobs and generally just live.
Mid December some of the 'ladies' I know organised a lunch in Veliko Tarnovo and although I didn't want to go I did want to go. I'd missed the previous two through either being busy with the rebuild or too injured to drive the 90 kilometres, each way. A couple of friends in the area mentioned they fancied going so I volunteered to drive, this would prevent me from finding a last minute excuse for cancelling. I''m pleased I did 'con' myself into going as it was a great relaxing, and fun, time. However, the day before did witness me having a major 'hissy fit' when I found mice had nibbled at clothes which hadn't been protected by cinnamon sticks. We arrived in Veliko Tarnovo early as we knew there was a seasonal market on and I'd managed to get Paul a pair of long thick socks at last years, which unfortunately got burnt - he ended up with 4 replacement pairs. Driving back wasn't great, getting used to this scenario, thick fog meant the last 16 kilometres took me just over an hour to drive and I didn't see a pothole which meant I buckled another wheel rim. Thankfully Paul's judicious use of a club hammer sorted the buckled rim.
The Ladies in front of Veliko Tarnovo Market
A couple of days before me leaving to do the house sitting a friend in France video Skyped us, a conversation that reduced me to tears. Because she is always busy with work at the end of December she celebrates her birthday and Christmas a month late (we have crazy friends what can I say) her birthday present to herself was going to be airline tickets for Paul and myself to help her celebrate. We accepted her statements that we needed a holiday away from here, together but also knew that money would be better spent rebuilding or home, and therefore live, here. Initially we didn't want to accept, what we saw as, charity but the fact that she said she wanted us there, made us swallow our pride and accept the offer. A deciding factor was the fact that she said she wanted to see us, she's as stubborn about admitting attachment to people as I am. So, weather permitting, we're off to northern France end of January for a week. We still need to find someone to feed the animals for us whilst we're away but that shouldn't be a major problem.
Paul and myself had a day to ourselves between the helpxer leaving and me going off to house sit. I have no idea what we did other than enjoy each others company.
House sitting was uneventful and slightly boring, although I did manage to do some crochet and read 3 books. I often believe that we do not do as much as we should here but being put in a situation where the only thing that needs doing is dogs walked and dogs and cats fed made me realise how much our pottering does achieve and satisfy me. The lady I was house sitting for must have thought I was an idiot with my questions about when her wood burner flues were last cleaned, but I'd noticed straight away she had no fire extinguishers, or fire blankets. Initially she had been planning on getting a bus to her daughters, about 4 hours away but because of the quantity of stuff to take decided to drive. When I contacted her on the 26th to enquire about the time she expected to be returning the following day I was very surprised to learn she was returning via Sofia, as the weather forecast was not good.
I left there on the 27th about 1730 hours not looking forward to the drive back in the dark and snow - although I knew once I got out of the valley a friend lived 15 minutes away and had told me to go there if the conditions were too dangerous for getting home. Desire to get back to Paul may have clouded my judgement but once out of the valley the drive home looked as thought it would be easy, unfortunately conditions deteriorated about 15 kilometres down the road. In addition to the (heavy) snow fall I now had fog to contend with, logically I was closer to friends house than home but ... Anyway I drove on, at a snails pace, but it wasn't long before Paull got the first of a few 'phone calls I passed a road sign for a place name I didn't recognise so became convinced I'd taken the wrong road. With the help of Google maps Paul was able to tell me I was on the right road and also told me upcoming landmarks. I went back to my plodding along and luckily nobody else seemed stupid enough to be one the roads as I didn't acquire a queue of traffic behind me. Eventually I got to roads I was familiar with and started feeling more confident about reaching home, oh dear, that confidence was misplaced as I swerved to avoid a big pothole and went into a skid. This, obviously, resulted in me phoning home again not because I expected Paul to come to my rescue but as I'd stopped inches from a ditch I needed to talk to Paul in order to calm myself down before attempting to reverse back onto road. I was a bit naughty as I told Paul I'd phone him once car was on the road but because there was now traffic around I took the opportunity of a break in the traffic to continue the homeward journey. He did get a 'phonecall about 30 minutes later when I needed to stop for a wee break, and spotted a layby not covered in deep snow.
It was nice to get home, even though Paul did complain the meal he'd
prepared for me was burnt and probably tasted awful - it was
great. The following day I unloaded the car and was pleased that
despite the work they require Paul liked the lights I had acquired at a
reasonable cost. They will end up costing us more than new lights
but the shape and style will go well with the vaulted ceiling.
The large one was one of a pair, unfortunately t'other one didn't survive the fire . The 2 smaller ones are the new purchases.
I know those reading this have seen numerous pictures of the roof from inside but thought you might like the picture I took earlier this month showing the new roofline from the road leading to the house.
I hope some of you, at least, will return in 2015 to peruse my ramblings and in the meantime we wish you all the best of years.